The 60 Best TV Shows on Hulu

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30. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
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Creator: Rob McElhenney
Stars: Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Kaitlin Olson, Danny DeVito
Original Network: FX
The idea behind Sunny is simple yet brilliant—bring together the most narcissistic and cruel characters imaginable and let them wreak havoc on the world. Dennis, Dee, Mac, Charlie, and Frank all run Patty’s Pub together, though that endeavor never seems to keep them occupied for long. To entertain themselves, the group hatches one scheme after another. “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System,” for example, is Dennis’ foolproof method for manipulating women’s emotions so that they’ll fall in love with him. To give you an idea of how it works, the strategic acronym begins with “Demonstrate value” and ends with “Separate entirely.”—Riley Ubben

29. The Path
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Creator: Jesse Goldberg
Stars: Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, Emma Greenwell, Rockmond Dunbar, Hugh Dancy
Original Network: Hulu Original
Let’s face it: cults make for great TV. And the next sect to invade the small screen is the mysterious Meyerists of Hulu’s The Path, starring Hugh Dancy, Aaron Paul and Michelle Monaghan. Created by Jessica Goldberg, the original series follows a family at the center of the movement as they struggle with faith, power and each other. Aaron Paul returns to live-action TV after his indelible role as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad. On The Path, Paul plays Eddie Lane, a Meyerist adherent who’s going through a crisis of faith after discovering something disturbing while on a spiritual retreat. When he returns home, his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan from the first season of True Detective), one of the Movement’s strongest supporters, senses her husband’s troubles and believes he’s “transgressed.” Hugh Dancy, fresh from playing Will Graham on Hannibal, is the Meyerists’ charismatic leader, Cal Roberts. There’s a real depth to these characters and their intertwined storylines. The series combines drama with elements of mysticism, mystery and romance.—Christine N. Ziemba

28. The Americans
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Creator: Joseph Weisberg
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor
Original Network: FX
We’re still mad that The Americans was completely shut out of the Emmys. The series pulled off what many shows cannot—its stellar second season was even better than its first, as the threats Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) faced moved right into their home. The show works because of the amazing performances. Rhys and Russell slip in and out of accents and wigs, but they are always believable as Russian spies hiding in plain sight. Noah Emmerich’s Stan was heartbreaking, and—right up until the final moment—it looked like he might betray his country to save the woman he loved. Annet Mahendru’s Nina was simultaneously vulnerable and cunning. The stakes on The Americans are extraordinarily high, and each week was fraught with nail-biting tension. The season finale shocking plot twist about Emmett’s killer, and Leanne and their daughter was a doozy. But even more shocking was the KGB’s recruitment ideas for Jennings’ daughter Paige (Holly Taylor)—and the fact that Elizabeth thinks it’s a pretty good idea. The stage is set for an amazing Season Three.—Amy Amatangelo

27. New Girl
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Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether
Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson, Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris
Original Network: FOX
In 2012, New Girl went from adorkable show led by quirky Zooey Deschanel to one of the current great ensemble comedies on television. This year, it found its voice, making the guys of New Girl—Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson and Lamorne Morris—as much a focal point as Deschanel’s Jess, with great success. Finding humor in late-20s uncertainty, New Girl breathes new life into the sitcom in a way that hasn’t been seen since How I Met Your Mother, but without the romantic entanglement between friends that so many sitcoms before it have forced onto its stars.—Ross Bonaime

26. Newhart
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Creator: Barry Kemp
Stars: Bob Newhart, Mary Frann, Jennifer Holmes, Julia Duffy, Tom Poston, Peter Scolari
Original Network: CBS
Bob Newhart had the best second act in sitcom history. Newhart ran for most of the 1980s, longer than The Bob Newhart Show did, and despite resting heavily on Newhart’s patented brand of deadpan exasperation, the two shows had strong enough settings and casts to stand out from each other. Newhart featured career work from Tom Poston, Julia Duffy and Peter Scolari, and its remote Vermont setting lead to the creation of three of the most memorable breakout sitcom characters of the 1980s: Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl. Newhart was a smart, confident, hilarious show, and people still talk about the ingenious twist in its final episode 26 years later.—Garrett Martin

25. The Good Wife
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Creator: Robert King, Michelle King
Stars: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega, Josh Charles
Original Network: CBS
Are network dramas supposed to be this good? Julianna Margulies stars as the title character Alicia Florrick. In a storyline ripped from many, many headlines, the series begins with Alicia’s public humiliation. Her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), the District Attorney of Chicago, has been caught cheating—with a prostitute. The scandal thrusts Alicia back into the workforce and she goes to work for her (very sexy) old law school friend Will Gardner (Josh Charles). But Alicia is not your typical “stand by your man” woman and The Good Wife is not your typical show. The brilliance of the series is that it deftly blends multiple and equally engaging storylines. Each episode is an exciting combination of political intrigue, inner-office jockeying, family strife, sizzling romance and intriguing legal cases. The series features a fantastic array of guest stars and creates a beguiling and believable world where familiar characters weave in and out of Alicia’s life—just like they would in real life. You’ll be fascinated by Archie Panjabi’s mysterious Kalinda Sharma. Delight in Zach Grenier’s mischievous David Lee. Marvel at Christine Baranski’s splendid Diane Lockhart. And witness the transformative performance Alan Cummings gives as the cunning Eli Gold. But the real reason to stick with the series is to partake in the show’s current later seasons. Many shows start to fade as they age, but The Good Wife is finishing strong.—Amy Amatangelo

24. Archer
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Creator: Adam Reed
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter, Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, Amber Nash
Original Network: FX
Archer has succeeded as a hilarious parody of both James Bond and Mad Men with the comedic sensibilities of FX’s best. Season Two was full of surprising twists—like Archer’s breast cancer. The mini third season—the “Heart of Archness” trilogy following Archer’s revenge on the man who killed his Russian love—made Archer one of the few story-driven animated series that actually delivers.—Ross Bonaime

23. Star Trek: The Next Generation
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Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: Syndicated
The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise. Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and at least while I was watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either.—Josh Jackson

22. Portlandia
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Creators: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Stars: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Original Network: IFC
IFC’s short-run comedy series Portlandia is a show about hipsters that translates well-beyond Portland’s city limits. (Hey, Silver Lake and Brooklyn: We mean you, too.) Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) have struck gold poking fun at the culture of coffee shops, indie book and record stores and that too-cool-for school attitude.—Christine N. Ziemba

21. Firefly
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Creator:   Joss Whedon
Stars: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass
Original Network: Fox
Leave it to Joss Whedon to dream up a space show without aliens. The smart writing he brought to Buffy turned the universe into one big frontier, where those who didn’t conform to authoritarian rule were forced to eke out their livings among outlying planets where the long arm of the law can’t follow. Watch the way-too-short-lived series in full before finishing with Serenity.—Josh Jackson

20. Twin Peaks
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Creators: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Eric Da Re, Sherilyn Fenn
Original Network: ABC
 Twin Peaks has all the necessities of a cult classic: psycho killers, dashing detectives and unsolvable murders. Despite the small town’s charm, a dark undercurrent runs beneath the surface. David Lynch gave the TV landscape a unique voice with this two-season, canceled-too-soon series that’s both humorous and eerily horrific.—Anna Westbury

19. The X-Files
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Creator: Chris Carter
Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Mitch Pileggi
Original Network: Fox
Pairing Scully the skeptic and Mulder the believer as they investigated the paranormal, The X-Files at its best was as good as any other TV show in history. Its greatness waned in the later years, but the early seasons did more than investigate the implausible; it accomplished it by taking aliens and conspiracy theories to the mainstream.—Josh Jackson

18. Sports Night
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Creator:   Aaron Sorkin
Stars: Josh Charles, Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman, Joshua Malina, Sabrina Lloyd, Robert Guillaume
Original Network: ABC
As a screenwriter for films like A Few Good Men and The American President, Aaron Sorkin loved his job and was very good at it. So, naturally, when he developed his first TV series for ABC 10 years ago, he filled it with characters who loved their jobs and were very good at them. More than the rapid-fire dialogue or deft blend of comedy and drama, it’s the utter competence of the sportscasters and producers that quickly separates Sports Night from the other 30-minute laugh-tracked TV shows of the ’90s. The bosses are smart and helpful, except when they’re meddlesome network executives. You’re held accountable for mistakes, but your co-workers always have your back. Instead of the classic reliance on miscommunication for situational comedy, the tension arises from a pressure to excel in the national spotlight, and the humor comes from genuinely funny characters. Sorkin worked hard to respect his audience’s intelligence with clever dialogue and heady subject matter. With film-worthy writing and one of the best casts ever assembled for a sitcom (Robert Guillaume shone both pre- and post-stroke and William H. Macy was a regular guest), Sports Night changed the trajectory of television. It was a half-hour comedy with better, more emotional storylines than most hour-long dramas. It was one of the first hybrids of a multi-camera and single-camera show, benefiting from the strengths of both approaches. And its echoes could be felt in some of the best shows that followed: the volleys of witty repartee between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, The Sopranos’ psychiatrist scenes, and the meta-story lines about the show’s impending cancelation in Arrested Development.—Josh Jackson

17. Scrubs
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Creator: Bill Lawrence
Stars: Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley, Judy Reyes
Original Network: NBC
J.D. and the gang gave a completely absurd (and yet often the most realistic) look into the world of hospitals. Each episode didn’t center around some outlandish disease that everyone thought was lupus, only to find out it was something else in the last five minutes of the show. Instead Scrubs was character-driven. It was consistently overlooked by the Emmy Awards, and viewership dwindled throughout the seasons. Still, the witty writing and off-beat characters deserved more. When NBC canceled the show, ABC was confident enough to pick it up for two more (laborious, unwatchable) seasons. But in its prime, it was one of the best sitcoms on TV.—Adam Vitcavage

16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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Creator:   Joss Whedon
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, Marc Blucas, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head
Original Networks: The WB, UPN
 Buffy the Vampire Slayer had it all: Romance, drama, tragedy, suspense. The show took the teen-soap formula and elevated it to an art. It was a unique combination of tragic romance, apocalyptic fantasy and the clincher—emotional realism. It also featured the most serious and realistic depiction of human loss ever witnessed on the small screen (in “The Body,” dealing with the death of Buffy’s mom by natural causes). Humor? The writers understood the campy sheen that must accompany any show named Buffy. They also knew how to use snappy dialogue and uncomfortable situations to full effect. Complex characters? You’d be hard pressed to find another program that had the same range and consistency of character development. Everyone matured (or devolved) at his or her own realistic rate. As some feminist writers have argued, TV had never before seen the complexity of relationships among women that you saw with the likes of Buffy, Willow, Joyce and Dawn. Plot? The writers employed elaborate multi-episode, multi-season story arcs. People and events of the past always had a way of popping back up, the way they do in real life. Philosophy? Series creator Joss Whedon was all about the “meta”—the ideas and story behind the story.He succeeded, creating a WB/UPN show that bears closer resemblance to the works of Dostoevsky and Kafka than 90210 or Dawson’s Creek.—Tim Regan-Porter

15. Community
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Creator:   Dan Harmon
Stars: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash
As a half-hour sitcom, Community didn’t merely break the fourth wall; it broke it, openly commented on the fact that it broke it, only to then build a fifth wall for the express purpose of further demolition. Yet, if deconstructing the sitcom formula was all creator Dan Harmon’s magnum opus had to offer, it would have been a fun, if superficial lark. Instead, in telling the story of a ragtag group of community college students, the show used its vast pop culture vernacular as a vessel for telling surprisingly resonant stories about outcasts attempting to find acceptance, a sense of belonging and, yes, community. Whether the Greendale study group was participating in an epic game of paintball or being confined to their study room in search of a pen, Harmon and Co. perfected the art of taking gimmicky concepts and transforming them into strong, character-driven gems. And while only time will tell if the show will ever fulfill the “movie” segment of its #sixseasonsandamovie battle cry, the strange, winding saga of Community will forever stand as the stuff of TV sitcom legends.—Mark Rozeman

14. Louie
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Creator:   Louis C.K.
Stars:   Louis C.K.
Original Network: FX
If there is a formula for Louie, it would go like this: Disasters ranging from annoying to semi-tragic befall our hero, and they’re always tinged with an inhumanity that becomes absurd. Our hero struggles gamely in the face of a seemingly uncaring world, sighs, over-acts just the slightest bit, and presses onward despite a lack of hope. Just at the moment when he’s about to crack, an unlikely character delivers a big speech with a lesson that is emphatically delivered, but simple at its core. Our hero understands, is somewhat renewed, and immediately subjects himself to the pain of being human, with results that are never redemptive, but still somewhat reassuring—the juice of living is worth the squeeze of existence, even if we can’t quite explain why. There are sitcoms that just want to make you laugh, there are sitcoms that seek meaning through the addition of emotions like sadness and anger, and then there are sitcoms that seek those depths with a studied absurdity that slowly transforms into sincerity—and then back again. Louie belongs to that third category, but let’s go a step further: The category exists because of Louie. Nobody else is doing it.—Shane Ryan

13. Frasier
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Creator: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Original Network: NBC
Many classic sitcoms are paeans to blue-collar family life, but Frasier was the odd show that made cultural elites and eggheads somehow seem like lovable characters to a mass audience. Both Frasier and his brother Niles can be infuriatingly snobbish, but audiences soon found that when their petty jealousies were directed at each other, they could also be hilarious. The show soon became an off-hand representation of the idea of “smart comedy” on TV, but it was also still a sitcom full of relationship humor. Viewers waited a hell of a long time in particular for the long-teased relationship between Niles and Daphne to finally come to fruition (seven full seasons). Frazier, on the other hand, is never really lucky in love, but he was always better as a semi-depressed single, turning his probing mind on himself.—Jim Vorel

12. Mary Tyler Moore
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Creator: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Stars: Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Betty White, Cloris Leachman
Original Network: CBS
Even if you were born long after the show premiered, you probably are familiar with its most iconic moments—Mary triumphantly tossing her hat in the air, the death of Chuckles the clown or the traveling group hug that ended the series. Mary Richards (Moore) remains iconic as the first single, career woman to ever be the subject of a television show. She lived by herself! Made her own decisions! And wasn’t worried about getting married! Can you believe it? Set in the newsroom of WJM in Minneapolis, Mary’s co-workers included her irascible boss Lou Grant (Asner), affable news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), and goofy anchorman Ted Baxter (Knight). This was an office-based comedy in a time when family comedies were all the rage. The groundbreaking series paved the way for shows as varied as Murphy Brown, 30 Rock and The Mindy Project. Plus Mary had spunk, and we love spunk.—Amy Amatangelo

11. South Park
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Creators: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Brian Graden
Stars: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mona Marshall, Isaac Hayes, Mary Kay Bergman, April Stewart, Eliza Schneider
Original Network: Comedy Central
The South Park of the 1990s was quite a different show from the one it grew into over the years. In its earliest episodes, it was absolutely committed to raising as much controversy as possible, which was certainly a success in terms of media coverage alone. But the main characters were also quite a bit different—Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman were more innocent characters back then, truly childlike in many ways, less mature and grizzled from the insane experiences of living in their “quiet mountain town.” The early episodes are focused much tighter on those central characters as well, while just beginning to dip into pop culture parody (such as “Chinpokomon”) and episodes dedicated to supporting characters (such as “The Succubus”). The ’90s show hadn’t quite grown to its full potential, but it’s still easy to miss some of these character-driven stories compared to South Park’s more recent product, which so often dedicates whole episodes to Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s opinions on a single trend, celebrity, film or limited subject matter.—Jim Vorel

10. Battlestar Galactica
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Creators: Glen A. Larson (original), Ronald D. Moore, David Eick
Stars: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Michael Hogan, Aaron Douglas, Tricia Heifer, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett
Original Network: Sci-Fi (SyFy)
Ronald D. Moore turned a cheesy ’70s show into a gritty, unflinching look at what it means to be human, and ended up with one of the best sci-fi series of all time. With the crew of Galactica encountering no aliens during its exodus, the show was free to pit religion against science, freedom against security and family against conscience—tensions with no easy answers. It’s an epic tale with few villains and fewer heroes—just flawed people fighting for survival.—Josh Jackson

9. Parks and Recreation

Creators: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Original Network: NBC
 Parks and Recreation started its run as a fairly typical mirror of The Office, but in its third season, the student became the master. As it’s fleshed out with oddballs and unusual city quirks, Pawnee has become the greatest television town since Springfield. Parks flourished over the years with some of the most unique and interesting characters in modern comedy. And the beloved comedy accomplished the near-impossible and went out on top in 2015 when the series came to an end. Comedies, in particular, have a difficult time knowing when it’s time to take a bow. But Leslie Knope and her merry band of friends kept us laughing (and crying) right up until the series finale, which offered a powerfully good farewell to one of the most creative and beloved network series in a long time.—Ross Bonaime and Amy Amatangelo

8. I Love Lucy
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Creator: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz
Stars: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley, Richard Keith
Original Network: CBS
I Love Lucy is one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. It’s a show so well-structured, and so beloved, it continues to air in 2016, even though the last new episode premiered in 1957. It was the first show inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and multiple publications, including TV Guide and TIME, have named it one of the best television shows of all-time. Many series have clearly been (and still are) influenced by the wacky adventures of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, but I Love Lucy also played a major role in what would become a staple of the sitcom genre—reruns and syndication, born out of necessity after Ball became pregnant while filming. Ball and Arnaz were consistently determined to bring their unique vision to television, which ultimately resulted in a reinvention of the modern sitcom. Even if the generations to come don’t get to experience the magic in the same way that some of us have, the legacy of Ball and Arnaz, and how they made and re-made television, will always be apparent.—Chris Morgan

7. The Shield
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Creator: Shawn Ryan
Stars: Michael Chiklis, Michael Jace, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, Benito Martinez, Forrest Whitaker, Glenn Close
Original Network: FX
?Shawn Ryan’s cop drama masterpiece premiered on FX a few months before David Simon’s cop drama masterpiece premiered on HBO. Years later, if you ask anybody which cop drama masterpiece they believe to be the Greatest Of All Time™, they’ll probably say The Wire. That’s fine—The Wire’s laurels are well-earned—but give a little more consideration to The Shield, too, huh? In many ways, The Shield is The Wire’s equal. In some, it is superior; a vivid, graphic entertainment that’s no less profound than Simon’s musings on Baltimorean crime and punishment. The Shield is grimdark stuff from back before “grimdark” became de rigeur in our pop cultural diet; there are no straight-up good guys or bad guys here, just good guys who occasionally do bad things and bad guys who occasionally do good things. The series is fueled by enough doom to make the Bard himself crack a wry smile, and it’s loaded with dubious morality. We were caught in the thrall of Vic Mackey’s reckless, self-serving corruption long before Game of Thrones made character survivability a guessing game, and Breaking Bad made us root for ethically suspect protagonists. Most of all, though, The Shield put a spotlight on law enforcement malfeasance without irrevocably blurring the line between social critique and theatricalized excitement.—Andy Crump

6. Fargo
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Creator: Noah Hawley
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks
Network: FX
If you made a list of untouchable auteurs—that is, creators whose work should never be built upon or remade—the Coen Brothers would sit comfortably near the top. That did little to alarm Noah Hawley, whose reimagining of the Coen Brothers’ classic 1996 murder mystery took on the unthinkable, and succeeded brilliantly. At its highest moments, Fargo was myth-making in its finest form. That’s what this show was; a myth, a legend, a tall-tale in the Minnesota cold. Every great myth needs a greater villain, and Fargo had one of the best of the year. The pairing of Hawley’s twisted antagonist, Lorne Malvo, and the always enigmatic Billy Bob Thornton (giving his finest performance in years) was perhaps the greatest achievement of the FX drama. It was clear that Malvo was only human, and yet we were fully prepared for Hawley to reveal that he was something more. In the final moments, when Malvo’s outcome was all but certain, I couldn’t help but expect for him to rise again, as he always seemed to. In a mere ten episodes, this character went from unknown to larger-than-life. For all those new shows that struggle to build worlds and characters, please, watch Fargo and take note.—Eric Walters

5. The Office (UK):
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Creators: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis, Oliver Chris, Patrick Baladi, Stacey Roca, Ralph Ineson, Stirling Gallacher
Original Network: BBC
I consider Ricky Gervais’ version of The Office to be a perfect sitcom for the way it balances cynicism and sentimentality. The comedy is heartbreaking, dark, brutal and oppressive—it stares into the deadening abyss of modern capitalism, which for so many people takes the form of dreary office jobs that eat up our time and slowly kill our souls, and it viciously attacks the entire structure. At its heart is David Brent, the incompetent, pompous narcissist who is one of the least lovable, most insecure leads in sitcom history. He fancies himself a kind of guru, but is in fact a moron, and his interactions with his deadly serious underling Gareth are beyond delightful. And even in this bleak setting, Gervais manages to reach our heartstrings with the awkward, slowly budding romance between Tim and Dawn, which stops short of the soap operatic smaltz of the American version (for one thing, Gervais has the balls to cast average-looking leads in his show, which would never happen over here) and has the capacity to actually make you ache. This seminal comedy gives up nothing too easily—its default setting is disappointment and ennui, always striving to undercut its principles—and that fact makes each move toward something brighter feel truly beautiful and truly earned.—Shane Ryan

4. Arrested Development
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Creator:   Mitch Hurwitz
Stars: Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi, Tony Hale, David Cross, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Alia Shawkat, Ron Howard
Original Network: Fox
Mitch Hurwitz’ sitcom about a “wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together” debuted six weeks after Two and a Half Men, but never gathered the audience to keep the show alive. Still, Hurwitz packed a whole lot of awesome into three short seasons. How much awesome? Well, there was the chicken dance, for starters. And Franklin’s “It’s Not Easy Being White.” There was Ron Howard’s spot-on narration, and Tobias Funke’s Blue Man ambitions. There was Mrs. Featherbottom and Charlize Theron as Rita, Michael Bluth’s mentally challenged love interest. Not since Seinfeld has a comic storyline been so perfectly constructed, with every loose thread tying so perfectly into the next act: The Oedipal Buster spiting his mother Lucille by dating her friend Lucille, and eventually losing his hand to a hungry loose seal; George Michael crushing on his cousin only to have the house cave in when they finally kiss; the “Save Our Bluths” campaign trying to simultaneously rescue the family and rescue the show from cancellation. Arrested Development took self-referencing postmodernism to an absurdist extreme, jumping shark after shark, but that was the point. They even brought on the original shark-jumper—Henry Winkler—as the family lawyer. And when he was replaced, naturally, it was by Scott Baio. Each of the Bluth family members was among the best characters on television, and Jason Bateman played a brilliant straight man to them all. —Josh Jackson

3. Cheers
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Creator: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Stars: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman, Nicholas Colasanto, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, George Wendt
Original Network: NBC
Like many long-running sitcoms, the Cheers of the 90s was really a fundamentally different show than it was in the 80s, less about the dating life of Ted Danson’s Sam and much more of an ensemble device, full of characters who were by this point beloved by all. The final years of Cheers were when all these characters got to shine, especially Rhea Perlman as Carla and Kelsey Grammer, who joined the cast full-time before spinning off into Frasier. The finale episode received mixed reactions at the time, but nostalgia has pushed it into favorable territory, especially given the happy endings that most characters receive. The fact that Sam decides not to get married and stays with the bar is the right decision—it is of course his “one true love.”—Jim Vorel

2. Seinfeld
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Creator: Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David
Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards
Original Network: NBC
On any given weekday, the likelihood is high that I watch a Seinfeld rerun that I’ve seen at least 20 times before, and I’m not alone in that habit. The fact that the show has been in continual reruns and syndication since its 76-million viewer finale proves how beloved it remains to this day: Seinfeld is still making money for networks 16 years after it ended. Its grasp on pop culture minutia was on another level entirely, as was its distaste for typical sitcom conventions. Long-term relationships and love triangles were practically non-existent on Seinfeld. Never did characters offer sappy apologies to each other. Never did they even learn from their mistakes! Larry David and company were instead committed to telling stories of everyday, casual misanthropy from people who viewed themselves as “generally decent” or average, but were in reality pretty terrible individuals. Without even going into depth about the show’s transformative effect on the cultural lexicon, known as “Seinlanguage,” it’s easy to see how Seinfeld uniquely stood out from every one of its peers.—Jim Vorel

1. The Simpsons
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Creator: Matt Groening, Sam Simon, James L. Brooks
Stars: Harry Shearer, Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Hark Azaria, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner
Original Network: Fox
At its creative peak in the mid-’90s, there was no better-written show on TV—the joke density alone is absolutely incredible. Go back and watch an episode like part one of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” from 1995 and the thing one can’t help but notice is how insanely fast everything moves—there’s literally a joke every few seconds, most of them brilliant. Every type of humor is present, from the ubiquitous pop culture references to self-referential parody, slapstick, wordplay and simply silly, iconic characters. Really, what TV character has been quoted more times since the early ’90s than Homer Simpson? How many of us can recite entire passages or episodes?—Jim Vorel